Friday, December 14, 2012

13. Not maqams

Al-Qasr. Structure at Height 367

To the south of Beit Jimal Monastery at a Height 367 stands a curious circular building with a dome, which from a distance looks like a maqam. Arabs called this building al-Qasr. But this is not a Muslim shrine, but some kind of fortification that may be connected somehow with the Monastery. It has two entrances – on the north and on the west. A round wall has four little loopholes which narrow closer to the front side. There is speculation that this building was used by Israeli forces in 1948. The loopholes look east and south of the Beit Jimal Monastery, the direction from which attacks of the Arab Legion were expected.

View from the north

View from the west

View from the south

Inside the structure

Route. An asphalt-paved road, which branches off the Highway 38, leads to the Beit Jimal Monastery. There is a 700-meter long stone path between the cloister and the building.

Fragment of the British map 1945

Visited: 29.07.12
Coordinates: 31°43'10.0"N 34°58'32.1"E
Location of the object on Google Maps
Dome structure in ‘Azrikam

At a southern entry to ‘Azrikam moshav (Route 3703) there is a square structure with a dome resembling maqam by its appearance. In Wikipedia it is called the “ancient arab tomb”, however, in fact this is not true. The structure may be dated to Ottoman or Mandate period; however, it is not a tomb but something like a ceramic workshop. Semi-circular niches in walls inside the structure where ceramic products could be annealed point to that. Herewith, a dome with a hole at the top, probably, served as a smoke duct. At present only the northern side of the structure is open; the remaining sides are covered with heaps of bavin wood.

View from the north

View from the north-west

Inside the structure

Coordinates: 31°44'46.6"N 34°41'54.8"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

Palestinian house (Tzova)

A structure with two domes to the east of Mount Tzova, which from a distance looks like a maqam. Some guides consider it to be a tomb of sheikh Ibrahim, although it’s none other than the remains of an ordinary Palestinian house. Everyone who comes inside immediately gets the evidence of this.

The Maqam sheikh Ibrahim did exist, though, but it was located not to the east of Mount Tzova but to the south of it, as indicated on the British maps of Palestine.

Fragment of the British map 1942

About this monument T. Canaan said: “Es-sultan Ibrahim's shrine is made of a square open enclosure with a taqah, a prayer niche, a small huwetah and a fig tree.” (1927, 71). 300 meters to the south of the road that passes near the Mount Tzova there is an ancient oak and a very old olive tree. Next to them lie the remains of a Muslim cemetery. But no matter how hard we tried, we could not find any sign of a maqam there.

The ancient oak and the olive tree to the south of Mount Tzova

Photo of 1920s (from the article by C. McCown)
The remains of a Muslim cemetery

Visited: 12.08.12
Coordinates31°47'04.3"N 35°07'49.6"E
Location of the object on Google Maps
References: McCown 1922, 75; Canaan 1927, 51, 71; Khalidi 1992, 318–319
Addition: Panorama

Sufla (Sufle)

The search for a maqam in a former Palestinian village Sufla (as-Sifleh), near the spring of Sufle, also was fruitless. It is reported that a shrine of sheikh Mu'annis used to stand in the village (Palmer 1881, 328, 329). It is said that one of the travelers saw this maqam just recently. We examined the ruins of the village through and through, but did not find either maqam, or even its possible foundation. At some point, we came across the remains of a small building with the fragments of a collapsed dome and some inscriptions in Arabic. This structure could have been considered the maqam of sheikh Mu'annis if there was a mihrab or at least its contour. But there is no sign of the mihrab.

The remains of village houses in Sufla

Remains of the building with the fragments of a collapsed dome

The remains of some burial place with a column – perhaps, Byzantine

According to W. Khalidi, the village cemetery lies to the east of the site (1992, 319).

Route. The Valley Nahal Me'ara is a popular tourist route. We met a large group of Israeli schoolchildren accompanied by the guides and teachers. To reach ‘Ein Sufle drive from moshav Bar Giora (Road 386) along the road 4x4 westwards for 3 kilometers, and then stop at the power line, which crosses the valley. Next, there is a 300-meter climb to the hill on the right, where in the cleft of the rock you’ll find the Sufle Spring. To west of it there are ruins of the Palestinian village.

Visited: 13.08.12
Coordinates31°44'06.0"N 35°02'25.1"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

The “Sheikh's House” in Khirbet al-Hubeila

A domed structure on the steep slope of Khirbet al-Hubeila, to the east from Israeli village Bat ‘Ain in Gush Ezion is often taken for the Maqam of sheikh Arba‘in. It happens because of the dome and the size of the structure in the form of irregular tetragon 7.20 x 6.20 m and 3.20 m high. It is doubtful that earlier there was a tomb of a Muslim holly man, as it is not Mecca-oriented and, moreover, without a mihrab.

This building is called Beit ha-sheikh (The Sheikh's House) on the website

According to the British maps of Palestine, there was the Maqam of sheikh Arba‘in on Khirbet al-Hubeila, though it was located more to the east from this structure, closer to Israeli settlement Masu'ot Ytzhak.

Now the Sheikh's House is turned into Jewish Prayer house, like a small synagogue. In the niches along the walls there are shelves with Judaism religious literature, arched curves, doorways and and windows in the south wall are renewed; the building is provided with electricity and lighting.

View from the east

View from the south-east

View from the north-west

Inside the building

Khirbet al-Hubeila served as a rest place and picnic place for the residents of Bat ‘Ayin and arriving guests. There are the remains of the ancient village: oil press factories, mikwe, tombs of the Second Temple period.

Route. From crossroad Alon Shvut and Road 367 turn to Israeli settlement Bat ‘Ain and turn right, to the asphalt road, leading to al-Hubeila spring, then climb up 150 m to the Northwest to the Sheikh's House

Visited: 13.08.15
Coordinates: 31°39'35.2"N 35°06'26.4"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

Palestinian house (Gan Yavne)

The Archaeological Survey of Israel describes this struxture as follows, “Structure (tomb) dedicated to Nebi Baraq; partially ruined. The walls are built of dressed kurkar, measuring 0.20 x 0.15 – 0.20 x 0.35. In the east wall of the building is a well-built doorway with a sharply pointed arch leading to a room with a vaulted ceiling. A staircase was preserved in that wall. Construction style dates the building to the end of the Middle Ages and the Ottoman period. Numerous modern-day repairs have been made to structure. Nearby are remains of plaster (apparently remnants of a reservoir or other water installation), tesserae and numerous sherds. According to Guérin, the site also had a well, nearby which were marble columns and tombs.

We visited this place and compared what we saw with the description in The Archaeological Survey of Israel:

The structure is partly ruined.” — The rof of the building has partly collapsed, but the walls stand upright.

In the east wall of the building is a well-built doorway with a sharply pointed arch leading to a room with a vaulted ceiling.” — There is a lancet arch in the east wall, but it seems to be blocked with bricks for a long time already. In the room behind the arch there is no vaulted ceiling.

A staircase was preserved in that wall.” — !

Numerous modern-day repairs have been made to structure.” — Yes, some inner works done are obvious. But in fact those works resulted in blocking the windows which were boarded or bricked up.

View from the east

View from the south

Inside the building

Inside the building, nothing proves that there was the Tomb of nabi Barak. The sharply pointed arch in the east wall and blockwork report about an obvious anciently of the building. But it is the only conclusion. Comparing with the previous photos one may think that the structure was not subject to a significant rebuilding: its exterior has been kept the same.

According to these details, it was a Palestinian residential house, though with some architecture peculiarities: a sharply pointed arch at the entrance, stairs leading to the roof, a small additional storey on the rooftop in the south-west corner.

There is no signs of the Muslim cemetery nearby that V. Guérin mentioned and that usually appear bear maqams and tombs of sheikhs and prophets. However, the main contradiction against the identification this building with the tomb of nebi Barak is a different one. In the book of the French traveler L. Gautier there is a photo of Palestinian village Burka with the tomb of nabi Barak which is a small square or rectangular structure with a high dome. V. Guérin described it as follows, “A kubbeh was here, dedicated to Neby Berak, and surrounded by tombs.” (Judee II 68) and L. Gautier commented, “a picturesque weli surrounded with trees.” (1898, 95). This structure doesn`t correspond to the object we observe.

Tomb of the nabi Burk (Barq). Photo of 1898 (from the book by L. Gautier)

Finally, if you put the map of Palestinian village Burka during the period of the British mandate over the map of this district, you will see that the Tomb of nabi Barak is 400–500 m to the south-east from this object (flagged red), near the Industrial zone Gan Yavne.

The Archaeological Survey of Israel referes to Guérin and other explorers of the past. But Guérin's descriptions about the well and marble columns nearby more likely match with not this object, but to a Muslim shrine — to the domed structure on the photo in Gautier's book.

Route. From Highway 4 there is a tuen to Road 3922, also called Derech Jerusalem, coming throught Gan Yavne. The Palestinian House stands 2.3 km from the turn, on the crossroad of Road 3922 and ha-‘Amal St.

Visited: 17.08.15
Coordinates: 31°46'42.4"N 34°41'48.0"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

References: Guérin, Judee II 68–70 ; SWP II, 409; Palmer 1881, 272 (Sheet XVI); Stewardson 1888, 131; Clermont-Ganneau, ARP II 192; Gautier 1898, 95; Khalidi 1992, 82–83; The Archaeological Survey of Israel; Hadashot Arkheologiyot
Addition: Panorama

1 comment:

  1. This is quite a wonderful article and the pictures you have uploaded are really amazing but it gives me some sort of loneliness feeling I font why.